Wednesday, April 16, 2008

De Blasio's (late) AY conversion and the need for oversight

City Council Member (and Brooklyn Borough President candidate) Bill de Blasio generated headlines yesterday on Brownstoner and the Gowanus Lounge--and then elsewhere--for blasting Forest City Ratner and declaring, according to Brownstoner, "I have been constantly disappointed in the lack of community involvement."

On GL, he was quoted as saying, "I've never seen something so fundamentally mishandled in terms of excluding the community."

Time for skepticism

I missed de Blasio's meet-up with Brooklyn bloggers Monday night--I was at a Municipal Art Society panel on planning--but I think a little skepticism is in order.

After all, he's long supported the project, despite expressing qualms. NoLandGrab noted yesterday that de Blasio was facing blowback for his support of the "toothless" Community Benefits Agreement.

As I wrote, after a long exchange with de Blasio at a meeting last fall, he sounded way out of touch when he said, “In retrospect, I don’t think anyone expected Forest City Ratner to be so untransparent.”

After all, as I noted, the developer has produced at least six disingenuous political brochures, launched the Brooklyn Standard “publication,” and required those selling property to sign gag orders.

As for de Blasio saying he wants "something in writing from Forest City Ratner to tell us if there has been a change and if there's been a change we need to revisit it," well, as noted on GL, the State Funding Agreement gives Ratner a lot of slack: 6+ years to build the arena, 12+ years to build Phase 1, and an unspecified amount of time to build the rest of the project.

[In an article on de Blasio's criticisms in today's Daily News, FCR spokesman Bruce Bender claims, without proof, "As the Council member knows, all of Atlantic Yards, including all of the affordable housing, will be built, and any delays in the construction phase will result in delays in delivering the thousands of units of affordable housing and thousands of jobs that Atlantic Yards will create."]

What next?

So what can de Blasio do beyond calling for a moratorium on demolitions, one that might have little effect?

Elected officials, including de Blasio, have called for a new governance structure to oversee the project. But a new governance structure can't get to the bottom of why the state (and city) have agreed to terms that give the developer a lot of flexibility.

Maybe lawmakers should hold some oversight hearings.

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